We All Need Paid Leave to Take Care of Ourselves

By Kim Schofield, 9to5 Georgia activist and board member
Pictured here with her daughter

For over 15 years, I have been living with lupus, a chronic autoimmune disease that ranges from mild to life threatening. The instability of the disease has sometimes put me in a challenging position to maintain sustainable employment. As a single mom, I must work.  Many times I have had to go to work sick for fear of losing my pay. My lupus flares can last a matter of hours or days. I’ve always felt pressured to compromise my health in order to maintain health benefits and work.

As an advocate for other people who live with lupus, I have heard many stories of people who live in fear about not having access to paid leave and being forced to work while sick. I’ve also heard from individuals who need assistance to go to doctor appointments or require assistance with their quality of care issues from family caregivers who don’t have access to paid leave.

No one should have to choose between the job they need and their own health or the health of the people they love.  Access to paid family and medical leave is not just an issue for people with lupus. It is a major issue for all people living and working with health challenges.

My role as an advocate includes raising awareness, educating the working community, meeting with legislators and talking to the media about the impact that paid family leave insurance could have for our families. I volunteer at workplace justice initiatives and strive to build collaborative community partnerships. It is important for me to become a change agent and solution strategist so that we promote the value of investing in a work culture that supports the relevant needs of its employees.

As my daughter enters the workforce, she is intentional about working with companies that promote family values, earned sick time and paid family leave. She is fully aware that she may have to have the flexibility to assist me, in case the need arises.

Passing a federal family and medical leave insurance bill that covers all workers will be a victory for everyone. It will send a message that corporate America understands that supporting the needs of its employees is good for families, communities and business.

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